What Car? says...
A few years ago, Toyota had a bit of an image problem. Sure, its cars were very reliable, but fashionable? Not really. Until the Toyota C-HR came along.
The C-HR helped make the brand a bit more hip with its wacky, coupé-inspired styling, and this second-generation model comes with the promise of more tech, more fun and even a bit more space.
It's roughly the same size as its main small SUV rivals – the boxier Skoda Karoq and Seat Ateca – although its rakish looks have more in common with the slightly smaller Nissan Juke. However, the C-HR isn't a cheap option, and its price strays well into BMW X1, Lexus LBX and Volvo XC40 territory.
That's partly because it's available only with hybrid engines, although the payback is impressive fuel economy and low CO2 emissions. A plug-in hybrid version will be joining the C-HR line-up in 2024.
Read on to find out how the Toyota C-HR squares up against the best small SUVs in all the important areas, and which engine and trim makes the most sense.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There's a choice of two petrol-electric hybrid engines for the Toyota C-HR – a 138bhp 1.8-litre and a more potent 193bhp 2.0-litre.
The 1.8-litre is our pick. It’s no speed demon, managing 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds (a second slower than a Lexus LBX) but it’ll get you up to motorway speeds without much fuss.
If that won’t cut it for you, check out the 2.0-litre. We timed one at our private test track accelerating from a standstill to 60mph in 8.4 seconds, making it slightly quicker than the Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost 155 and the VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI 150.
So far we've driven a prototype of the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the C-HR. It has an official electric-only range of 41 miles, and when you put your foot hard down it builds speed speeds quicker than either of the regular hybrids (0-62mph takes 7.3 seconds).
Suspension and ride comfort
The C-HR features relatively soft suspension giving it a comfortable ride at motorway speeds. However, in town, it does occasionally trip up over sharp-edged abrasions in a way that you simply won’t experience in a Skoda Karoq or Volvo XC40.
It's important to note, though, that we have only sampled the C-HR on the 19in alloy wheels that come as standard on range-topping Premiere Edition trim. Icon and Design models come on smaller 17in and 18in wheels respectively and they should, in theory, improve the ride.
Keep that in mind if you like the look of the GR Sport models – they come on stiffer suspension and have big 20in alloys. Although we haven't tried them yet, it's a safe bet to assume you'll be jostled around in your seat a bit more than in other versions.
The C-HR isn't as sharp or fun as the Audi Q2 or the Ford Puma but it still still handles in a competent, grown-up manner when you're driving normally. It has well-weighted, accurate steering, which works well both in town and on faster roads, and there isn't too much body lean through tighter corners.
Our only complaint is that the front tyres don't have a great deal of grip, which means when you try to push on a bit along a country road you'll quickly notice the front end of the car running wide of your chosen line. It's not alarming, but it does rob you of some enjoyment.
The GR Sport version, with its stiffer suspension and stickier tyres, could well be more agile and grippier (we'll let you know as soon as we've tried it).
Noise and vibration
At very low speeds, the C-HR can be driven along on the electric motor alone, so it’s quieter than most conventional petrol or diesel alternatives. However, anything more than gentle acceleration requires the help of the petrol engine, at which point things get a bit rowdy, especially in the 2.0-litre version.
The blame lies with the CVT automatic gearbox which, whenever you squeeze your right foot, causes the revs to rise suddenly and stay high until you’re up to your desired speed, filling the interior with an annoying drone. The CVT-equipped LBX has the same trait, but its three-cylinder engine is much quieter than the 2.0-litre in the C-HR, making it a less tiring companion.
On the plus side, the C-HR's interior is well isolated from wind and road noise, and the brake pedal is far less grabby than in some other hybrid cars.
Strengths Comfortable ride; easy to drive; relatively quiet cruiser
Weaknesses Noisy when accelerating harder; not much fun; 1.8 isn't exactly a rocket ship
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
Although the Toyota C-HR is a small SUV, you don't sit as high up in it as in many rivals. You're closer to the road than in a Skoda Karoq, for example, although you do still feel further from the ground than in a regular hatchback, such as a VW Golf.
There are no major ergonomic issues inside, and mercifully the C-HR has some physical controls for its air-conditioning system – unlike many modern cars. The seat and steering wheel have plenty of adjustment, although entry-level Icon models do miss out on adjustable lumbar support.
Icon trim also misses out on a 12.3in fully digital instrument panel behind the steering wheel. Instead, there's a smaller 7in display.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
That heavily styled rear end makes it hard to see what’s behind you when you're reversing, and the small rear side windows don’t help. Fortunately, all versions have a reversing camera to help get around the issue.
Parking sensors are an option on entry-level Icon trim, while Design models and above come with front and rear parking sensors as standard.
The view out of the front is generally good and the front pillars don't get in the way too much when pulling out of junctions. However, some boxier SUV rivals are even easier to see out of.
Sat nav and infotainment
All other trims have an upgraded 12.3in touchscreen. It's positioned helpfully high up on the dashboard and is angled slightly towards the driver, so it's easy to see and reach. The operating system isn't the most intuitive but you get the hang of it fairly quickly, and the screen responds quickly when you press it. Versions with the bigger screen also have a built-in sat-nav and voice recognition.
You get a six-speaker stereo on most trim levels, with a more powerful nine-speaker JBL sound system (which sounds great) fitted to Excel and Premiere Edition models. The JBL system is optional on the GR Sport.
The C-HR feels reasonably plush inside by small SUV standards. There's plenty of soft-touch plastic, along with suede-effect lining on the insides of the doors of GR Sport, Excel and Premiere Edition models.
Cheaper Icon and Design models have seats trimmed in a fabric made from 100% recycled bottles, while the part suede-effect upholstery on Excel models is made from 45% old bottles. Going for Premiere Edition trim is the only way to get full-leather seats.
In the main, the C-HR's interior feels well screwed together, although there are a few wobbly bits, including some plastic trim on the inside of the doors. If you want to experience the plushest interior in the class with the best build quality we'd point you in the direction of the Lexus LBX.
Strengths Comfortable driver's seat; punchy nine-speaker JBL sound system; smart interior materials
Weaknesses You don't sit that high by SUV standards; no lumbar adjustment on Icon trim; some wobbly bits of interior trim
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
You won’t have any issues with space in the front of the Toyota C-HR unless you’re well over six feet tall. Thanks to its fairly wide interior, you also won’t feel as though you’re rubbing shoulders with your front seat passenger.
Toyota says the fixed glass roof (optional on Design and GR Sport and standard on the Premiere Edition) raises the height of the ceiling by 3cm rather than reducing head room, and it certainly makes the interior feel more open and airy.
There’s some stowage space between the driver and passenger for odds and ends, along with a couple of cupholders next to the gear lever. The door pockets are rather slender, though.
Given that the C-HR has a similar footprint to a Skoda Karoq, you might assume rear space would be similar in both cars. Sadly, that’s not the case.
In fact, the C-HR is actually pretty cramped in the back, with rear leg and head room closer to that offered by much smaller SUVs, such as the Lexus LBX and the Peugeot 2008. Head room is particularly disappointing.
A couple of children – or even younger teenagers – won’t moan about outright space, but they may feel rather claustrophobic as the tiny rear side windows make you feel a bit like you’re trapped in a pillar box. Squeezing three in the back is more difficult than in many of the C-HR’s rivals too.
Seat folding and flexibility
All C-HRs come with 60/40 split-folding rear seats, but that’s about your lot. There’s no option to add more convenient 40/20/40 folding seats, and there are no handles in the boot to fold the seatbacks down (you have to push a button next to the rear headrests, requiring you to walk around to the side of the car).
The rear seats don’t slide or recline, either, and adjustable lumbar support is available for only the driver, not the front passenger.
For better flexibility, you’ll want to take a look at the Karoq in SE L trim because that comes with Skoda’s Varioflex seats, which can be reclined, slid back and forth, or even removed from the car altogether.
Outright boot space is disappointing compared with boxier rivals, such as the Seat Ateca and the Skoda Karoq.
The C-HR’s boot is hardly tiny, though, so a weekend away is unlikely to cause any issues. It's worth noting that the 2.0 has a higher boot floor than the 1.8 so it loses some storage space, but overall capacity drops by just 6% (from 388 to 364 litres).
We managed to fit six carry-on suitcases in the boot of the 2.0 – the same as we squeezed into an Audi Q2 and an LBX. Luggage space for the PHEV hasn't been announced yet.
It’s a pity Toyota hasn’t made a bit more effort to make the boot easier to use. For example, there’s no height-adjustable boot floor, meaning there’s always an annoyingly big lip at the boot entrance.
Strengths Decent front space
Weaknesses Cramped rear seats; boot space nothing to write home about; limited seating flexibility
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
As a cash buy, the Toyota C-HR doesn’t seem particularly cheap, especially when you compare it with the price of an entry-level Seat Ateca or Skoda Karoq. The more expensive trim levels creep into the same territory as premium-badged alternatives, including the BMW X1, the Lexus LBX and the Volvo XC40. (To make sure you get the best price, check out our latest new Toyota deals.)
Mind you, thanks to its low CO2 emissions, the C-HR is cheaper to run as a company car than most rivals (the forthcoming PHEV version should be even cheaper). If you want to sacrifice significantly less of your salary in benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax, you'll need to consider a fully electric alternative, such as the Kia Niro EV or the Volvo EX30.
Official fuel economy is very impressive in both 1.8 and 2.0 versions. During testing at our private test track, the 2.0 returned an impressive 48.8mpg.
Equipment, options and extras
Don't rule out entry-level Icon trim – it comes with all of the essentials, including adaptive cruise control, keyless entry, climate control and LED headlights. However, it does have a smaller infotainment touchscreen than other trims levels.
That's partly why our favourite trim is Design. As well as the bigger touchscreen, it also adds a fully digital driver display, ambient interior lighting and heated front seats. Plus it gains extra parking aids and opens up some personalisation features, including the option to have a black roof.
This latest-generation C-HR was too new to be included, but the previous model (2016-2023) was one of the most dependable cars in its class.
Although the standard three-year warranty isn't anything special, as long as you get you C-HR serviced annually at an official Toyota dealer, that warranty cover will be automatically extended for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first).
Safety and security
The C-HR comes with a fair amount of safety kit, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitoring and road-sign assist. You also get lane-departure warning and automatic high-beam assist for the headlights.
For even more kit, upgrading to Design trim adds rear cross-traffic alert (which warns of approaching cars when you’re backing out of a driveway on to a road). Further active safety kit, including a driver monitoring camera and front cross traffic alert, is fitted to Excel and range-topping Premiere Edition models, and is available as on option on GR Sport trim.
At the time of writing, Euro NCAP hadn't published a safety appraisal on the latest C-HR, so we can't tell you how well its likely to protect you or your family if an accident can't be avoided.
Strengths Excellent efficiency; should prove very reliable; most trims are well equipped
Weaknesses Rather pricey; no Euro NCAP safety score yet; Icon trim misses out on some things you'll probably want
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In 2024, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the Toyota C-HR will be offered alongside the existing regular hybrid model.
The C-HR's bold, coupé-esque styling has won it a lot of fans, plus its hybrid powertrain returns impressive fuel economy.
The C-HR isn't very practical compared with many similarly priced small SUVs due to its cramped rear seats and so-so boot.
|RRP price range
|£31,290 - £46,590
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|petrol parallel phev, hybrid
|MPG range across all versions
|53.3 - 60.1
|Available doors options
|3 years / 60000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£547 / £2,086
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£1,095 / £4,173